On day one of Sony's console launch, there are 24 games you can pick up to play on it. We've either reviewed or spent time with all of them. So here are our thoughts, in micro-review form.
Angry Birds Star Wars
What, you don't have a phone? Angry Birds Star Wars is brilliant, combining the slingshot physics puzzles of the world's most popular mobile game franchise with the lore and mechanics of the original Star Wars trilogy. It never feels like the cheap cash-in it looks like — in fact, in many ways this game is superior to the original Angry Birds.
That having been said, most of this content is available on mobile devices for next to nothing. There are 20 exclusive console levels and a pair of multiplayer modes which seem like fun, and the game does look lovely and crisp on the PlayStation 4 screen. It's just the concept of paying $50 for a game that's nearly free otherwise. Tons of fun to be had here, but the economics are flummoxing.
Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
Though comfortable enough on both rooftops and treetops, Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag comes to life on the open seas. The story's a mess but the scenery's great; it's easily the most aesthetically pleasing game in the series, particularly on PS4.
It may succumb to the series' overly gamey habits and weirdly compulsive RPG loops, but Black Flag remains a significant improvement for the series, a gorgeous piece of digital entertainment that makes good on its outsized ambition with remarkable regularity. Did it need to be an Assassin's Creed game? Hmm. Does it feel like an essential continuation of the Templars/Assassins storyline? Maybe not. Does it let us dress up like a pirate and sail the Caribbean, looting and plundering in style? Sure does.
Though the campaign is subpar—even with the big action setpieces and glossy-looking graphics—the multiplayer is better than ever. Particularly thanks to a few fantastic modes—like Obliteration, a favorite that entails capturing a bomb and planting it on the enemy's base—as well as a silly thing called "Levolution."
Levolution exists on every map, and lets the player trigger some kind of destruction of it that drastically changes how the map looks and how players play in it. A counter-knifing system also gives players an opportunity to combat a knifer when attacked from the front, something that'll both piss you off and make you happy depending on which end of it you're at.
Note that the PS4 version, like the PC version, supports 64 players in multiplayer matches.
Blacklight: Retribution is a free-to-play multiplayer first-person shooter. That's about all we can tell you, since unfortunately the servers have been down for most of the day today. For the short time they were working, the game played well, with tight controls and a fairly easy to understand loadout system. The highlight was getting enough kills to call in a suit of mechanized armor and stomp around the map railgunning people. At zero dollars, it may be worth taking the time to download to see what you get from it.
Call Of Duty: Ghosts
Typically, Call of Duty gets unfairly criticized for yearly releases with allegedly 'more of the same'—but in this case, it's actually true. It's an especially noticeable misstep after last year's Black Ops II tinkered with the formula a bit by providing things like multiple endings. This year, the franchise relies on cheap, hollow thrills in the single-player, along with uninspired levels and action sequences—but even so, there are highlights such as Riley the attack dog.
The multiplayer still provides the signature twitch shooting that Call of Duty is known for, but some modes are mysteriously absent and players who have dabbled with the multiplayer before may not feel particularly excited about this year's offering. The exception would have to be co-op mode Extinction where you can play what is basically horde mode against aliens—it's a good way to play with friends without having to deal with the larger community. Plus, y'know. Aliens are cool and feel like a breath of fresh air.
A gorgeous, granted buggy platforming game where you scale both the 3D world in your corporeal form and the 2D shadow world as a silhouette. You follow the story of a broken family, which serves as the setting for the darker undertones of parallel worlds and magic and science.
And though the ending's tone may betray the rest of the game, it's a lovely and thoughtful experience worth a few character model fudge-ups.
DC Universe Online
The superhero MMO from Sony Online Entertainment has seen strong participation and support since its early 2011 launch, improving itself with dozens of updates and expansions while going free-to-play in the process. The PlayStation 4 version is also free—paid subscribers ("Legendary") get the expansion content free and a huge roster to fill up with characters.
But if this is your first time fighting alongside Batman, the Flash and Green Lantern (or against them) there is plenty of content to fool around with before deciding if you want to spend money. It will probably be a huge download. Improved visuals and performance on the PS4 should cut down on the one nagging drawback of MMOs—framerate drop and pop-in. The Share button should probably be in high demand for those Raids and Alerts and just plain showing off. Owen has sunk a couple hundred hours into DCUO, at least, and looks forward to bringing Super Mariner, Bogeyman, Cobra Tut, Suicide Jack and the rest of his toons into the next generation. Anyone with an account on the PS3 brings all of his or her characters over to PS4, which also supports remote play if you have a Vita.
Update: Here are some of our impressions of the PS4 version.
Our sports/soccer experts Luke and Owen haven't had time to play with FIFA 14 on the PS4, which is particularly important for this game considering the new physics and animation engine. So you'll likely see updates like 3D crowds and smoother animations, but Owen will have better impressions for you over the weekend when he's had more time with his brand new PS4.
In the meantime, you can check out Luke's impressions of the current-gen edition of the game, which he was pretty keen on. To give you an idea: "Despite an aging engine and lack of many real updates other than a new menu, FIFA 14 feels like a refinement, a final perfection of current-generation football games." But a new engine could be exactly what it needs next. We'll keep you posted.
It's not a game for everyone, nor for every occasion, but Flower — which I thought was great on PS3 — is now back on PS4. It's mostly the same experience, as you control...the wind, blowing...some flowers around, only now it's a lot prettier. And it was a pretty game to begin with.
Injustice: Gods Among Us
A fighting game so awesome and unlikely DC Comics has to build an entire alternate universe to house it. Injustice: Gods Among Us is the story of what happens when Superman stops playing nice and starts declaring martial law on the entire world after being tricked into murdering his wife and unborn child by the Joker, that silly sod.
Yes, it's far-fetched, but an insane story with no real connection to comic book "reality" gives the folks that made Mortal Kombat the ability to craft a wonderfully over-the-top fighting game, easily the best superhero-themed entry in the genre, even if this version doesn't seem to have been enhanced much at all for the new system. PlayStation 4 gamers are getting the Ultimate Edition though, which includes all of the downloadable content — new costumes and characters — in one handy disc. Shazam!
Just Dance 2014
The choreography may not be anything fancy, but it's a fun party game and even a pretty good work-out featuring some popular songs. It's just not better than Dance Central, but it's a good replacement for Sony's console, as well as even a bit more kid-friendly.
Killzone: Shadow Fall
This is a case where the kind of hyper-realistic good looks doesn't make up for just how cookie cutter the rest of Killzone is. Players take control of Lucas Kellan, a soldier in a top-secret program in the middle of a war that plays out in space and alien planets.Shadow Fall tries very hard to be a cautionary tale about warmongering, the politics of crisis and What's Going On in the World Today.
But even with glimmers of interesting play ideas, Shadow Fall is ultimately a parade of overused narrative tropes and FPS gameplay design. The advent of next-gen hardware and the technological muscle-flexing that comes with it doesn't make shitty on-rails sections any better.
Knack is a showpiece game. The kind you can show to your friends to give them a good idea of the power of the PS4. It's a colorful third-person action game starring a brawling beast named Knack who is sort of weapon of mass destruction sent to punch through the war between goblins and humans.
But as good as the environment looks, Knack's own visual detail, his body of floating relics, doesn't often amount to more than a special effect. It's a game better played for the next-gen graphics than the throwback PS2-style gameplay.
LEGO Marvel Super Heroes
The free-roaming Marvel Super Heroes game fans always wanted, only blockier. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes gives players 100+ iconic heroes and villains from throughout the Marvel Universe, drops them in them middle of LEGO New York City, and lets them go to town. Sure, there's a story mode, something about the entire world being in danger or some such, but the real plastic-y meat of this game is exploring the free-roaming bits, uncovering secrets and unlocking new characters.
Is it the best LEGO Adventure yet? If you make yours Marvel, then indubitably.
Madden NFL 25
We were not impressed with the PS3 and Xbox 360 version of Madden, which showed little improvement over Madden NFL 13 and appeared held back in order to place greater focus on next-generation versions. We have not reviewed the PS4 edition but early word does not sound good. EA Sports is touting improved pass blocking for Madden, which should be a bonus as offensive linemen seemed unable to execute a double-team bock in any previous edition.
But if animations are largely the same and if commentary remains stale, the higher quality graphics may not matter much. For those invested in the game's Ultimate Team mode, you will be able to transfer it from PS3 to PS4.
Like Madden, NBA 2K14 on the current generation was not greatly distinct from NBA 2K13. Unlike Madden, however, NBA 2K14 will be offering a couple of new modes of play in addition to sumptuous visuals that had hoopheads cooing over this trailer a few weeks back. Among them will be a "GM mode" that extends the game's franchise career experience and puts the player on the other side of the desk, not only considering trades for a superstar but dealing with him directly in conversation.
My Player, the superstar career mode, still has players interacting with the boss man and also adds some new off-the-court wrinkles to the experience. "The Park" takes created players down to the blacktop where they can run ball or watch it and socialize. We haven't played NBA 2K14 on PS4 yet; impressions will come this weekend in a special edition of Stick Jockey.
Need For Speed: Rivals
The latest game in EA's racing franchise makes an impressive debut on PS4, with some of the best visuals on the newly released machine. The driving action offers up a great mix of car combat and precision control, with a line-up of rides that are a car lover's dream. Rivals is definitely one of the best launch games for Sony's new console.
Playroom isn't so much a game as it is an interactive toy to help you get some use out of your Playstation Camera, if you bought one. It comes free with the PS4, so if you sprung for the camera, spend ten minutes and check it out. There's not a whole lot to do, but the little robots can give you a chuckle or two, and it's a great way to keep younger kids fascinated for a while.
A beautiful, complex twin-stick shooter that gives you lots of control over an otherwise chaotic, cylindrical map. It's a good showcase of the PS4's power to include lots of particles on one screen, and a ton of fun to play, too.
Skylanders: Swap Force
Activision's bajillion-selling toys-meets-games franchise is back and better than ever. Tons of new toys to collect and play, many featuring the game's signature top-and-bottom-swapping gimmick, a fresh graphics engine, and the ability to (finally) jump, make Skylanders: Swap Force the best entry in the series so far.
Swap Force takes full advantage of the enhanced resolution of the new console. The latest line of colorful toys looks amazing on the PlayStation 4 in full 1080p, so good that our resident Skylanders expert plans on playing through the entire game again on the PS4.
Initially released on PlayStation Vita, this cute little platformer lets players jump and roll their way through intricately crafted levels made up of great music. Sound Shapes is a lot more dangerous than it looks but has enough charm and aesthetic wit to keep you trying to nail its trickiest jumps. And the levels made by other players will keep you humming along once you're done with the main game.
Based on a free flash game from way back in 2006, Super Motherload puts you in a little square mining vehicle and tasks you with mining ore on Mars to get rich. As you mine and sell what you find, you'll build up cash for new upgrades to dig deeper into the red planet. Of course, the deeper you go, you'll find that there's more than just ore waiting for you.
The new version adds voiceover, more story, outposts at deeper levels, 4 player couch co-op and a great soundtrack. The original game was a great way to spend a few peaceful hours exploring an alien planet. On PS4, Super Motherload gives the same great gameplay of the original, but looks and sounds fantastic. If you're looking for something a little different on your new PS4, Super Motherload is worth the $15.
Trine is well-known for its physics-based puzzle platforming and beautiful graphics, so naturally it still looks great on the PS4. If you're one of the early adopters with a 3D TV, Trine 2 is the first PS4 game to officially support it. For the rest of us, Trine 2 is a great co-op experience for up to 3 players online or on a couch. Of course, you can still play solo, switching between the three characters.
The dualshock 4 adds a nice feature with the touchpad, since trying to draw on the screen as the wizard can be somewhat cumbersome with an analog stick. If you've already played Trine 2, there isn't much to see that's different but, if you're new to it, it's a great experience on the PS4.
This free-to-play PC game is now on the PS4, and it's surprisingly fun. You're a warrior who wears a suit called a "Warframe" which looks like a rhinoceros and defends the solar system from various hostile alien races. It's mostly based around completing various missions with a squad of up to 4 players in huge randomly generated levels. There's plenty of loot to be found and a deep system of crafting and combining equipment to put it all to use.
Running around the levels in Warframe, you'd be surprised that they're randomly generated. While searching for objectives, there are often branching, hidden paths you come across that are fun to scour for loot. Warframe doesn't deliver the same level of loot craziness as a game like Borderlands, but the crafting system balances it out leaving tons of room for customization. Oh, and you can change the colors of every piece of gear, so that's good for two hours of entertainment alone.
Note: We've played and reviewed some of these games on current-gen consoles. But where we've felt we needed to, we tinkered with them again on the PS4.
Update: An earlier version noted that Warframe includes bots to replace missing players, but we've been told this is incorrect. Apologies from both myself and my reviewer!